The draw of the falls

Take a hike!

And so it begins, the pitter-patter of another rainy, winter day. To some it means a good nap under a cozy blanket, a soothing sound on a tin roof or perhaps that the yard is getting the rain it's been needing. But to many it means roaring water and beautiful waterfalls off a beaten path inside Alabama's best kept secret: William B. Bankhead National Forest.

The forest covers portions of Lawrence, Franklin and Winston counties and spans more than 180,000 acres. It is just a stone's throw away from Cullman County. The forest is full of wildlife, ranging from whitetail deer, wild hogs, foxes and several species of owls you may often hear at night while camping under the stars.

But my favorite part of the forest are the beautiful, crystal clear waterfalls that flow through and over large rock formations. Some are short and wide and some are super tall and pencil thin. You are most likely to find them inside a small gorge surrounded by large boulders and beautiful eastern hemlock trees, a special part of Bankhead National Forest.

There are numerous waterfalls inside the forest, some only run during the rainy season and some run year-round. Some of the rarest waterfalls you can see are the frozen ones. I've been lucky once to capture a few pictures; late December and through January are the best times to look for one. The temperatures must get below freezing for a few days in order for the stream of water to freeze over, but they typically only last a few days due to Alabama's ever-changing weather that warms quickly.

In order to find these waterfalls I suggest joining a local hiking group that has explored the forest many times or going with someone who has the knowledge and experience to locate them. The Alabama Forestry commission also offers maps that can assist in your efforts.

Now is the time! Get out there, and be sure to take a good walking stick, good shoes and good friends! Also, don't forget that camera. You can thank me later!        

Some of the most beautiful waterfalls to find within the Bankhead are Sougahoagdee Falls, Caney Creek Falls, Shangri-La Falls and Kinlock Falls.

Find out more about the Bankhead National Forest and plan your hike at https://tinyurl.com/BankheadNF.

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